Building Strong Legs for Skiers

Skiing is one of those sports that requires a combination of stamina and endurance, and quick precision moves.

Building strong skiers legsIn addition to regular strength, endurance and flexibility training, the best form of conditioning a skier can do off the slopes is plyometrics. Based on a series of jumping exercises, this explosive type of exercise trains muscles to contract faster and more forcefully, adding power and speed to your performance.

Plyometrics are a demanding way to train and places a tremendous amount of strain on joints and major muscle groups, especially the back and knees, and is not recommended for beginners. It is a physically demanding exercise that is ideal for athletes who have built up the strength, flexibility and balance to handle the demand. Once you’re at an advanced enough stage, plyometrics can be beneficial in preventing injury and improving overall performance. Please also take note that women are more susceptible to ACL injuries than men and should exercise extreme precaution.

Balance is the key to being a good skier and is a skill that can be developed with the use of a balance or wobble board. Having good balance for a skier means that your upper body is free to launch into those powerful push-offs coming out of turns and off moguls. Balance will add confidence to your game and allows for better grip in the snow and a more intuitive approach to the terrain. It goes without saying that a strong core is a must for high performance skiing.

Balance

If you’re not used to balancing on one leg, now is a good time to start practising. Using a pillow or balance board, practice balancing on one leg on the board without moving or falling over. Make sure you maintain proper alignment, keeping your core muscles flexed, and focus on your breathing. Once you feel comfortable with this move, try balancing on one foot on the board. Now you’re ready for the next move.

Round the Clock

Balancing on one leg on the floor, powerfully push yourself out as far as you can, imagining that you are standing at the centre of a clock, and hop back to centre again. Work your way through all the numbers, starting with 12, moving in a clockwise direction. When you’ve completed the circle, start again with the other foot.

Balancing Balls

With the aid of an eight-pound medicine ball, kneel on a fitness ball while holding the medicine ball and try to maintain your balance without moving. Again, focus on keeping those abs flexed and concentrate on your breathing to help with balance.

The next step is without the medicine ball. Try standing on the fitness ball without falling over. Gradually, add the medicine ball, so you’re standing on the fitness ball while holding the medicine ball. Having a friend spot you might be a good idea. When you get really good, practice jumping onto the ball from the floor, first without the medicine ball, then with the ball. First practice this move by jumping on stairs, a bench or chair (make sure it’s on a carpet or non-slippery surface).

Squat Jumps

Squatting down so that you can touch the ground, spring up as high as you can, land lightly on your feet and back into the squat for the next jump. Repeat about 10 times. Now you’re ready for lateral jumps.

Lateral Jumps

It’s a good idea to start by doing a few side-to-side stepping exercises before launching into this powerful move. Start by using a piece of tape, string or ski pole on the ground. Standing on one side of the marker, squat slightly and spring over the line landing back in a squat. Continue with these jumps for one full minute. When you’re ready to progress, change the marker for an obstacle like a shoe box, hockey bag or bench. Jump side to side and over the obstacle, just like before.

Power Hops

First practice this move by stepping off a stair and landing on two feet, before progressing onto one foot. For the power hops, start by standing on a bench or a 12- to 18-inch-high, sturdy box. Step off onto one foot and immediately jump up as high as you can, landing on the floor on the same foot. Repeat for one full minute and then change legs. When you’re ready to progress, increase the height of the bench or box.

 

Basketball Ballistic Training for Explosive Power

Most athletes will do some kind of weight training to help enhance their performance on the field, court or ice. Basketball players are no different.

Inbound_PassOne form of conditioning called power training is an excellent way to hone in on sport-specific training that can accelerate your game to the next level. While building strength in the gym is important for overall performance and endurance, when your goal is to increase speed, you’ll find that simply bulking up is not enough to make you faster in the game. Power training conditions your muscles to rapidly respond with the maximum amount of energy within the shortest amount of time.

When you’re in a static, controlled position like when you’re lifting weights, your maximal force is much higher than when you’re dribbling a ball or preparing to explode into a slam dunk. In fact, the higher your speed, the lower your maximal force. In terms of maximal lifting strength, this explosive kind of power peaks at the 30% 1RM mark, which is considerably low.1,2,3 When lifting a weight, the most power output occurs right at the initial phase of the contraction and then diminishes as you complete the movement. While this effect will help you become more powerful, for the seasoned basketball player, this will only take you so far before you plateau.

So how to you develop this kind of explosive power?

The first thing to bear in mind is that power training is for people who have been training for a couple of years already and have developed a solid fitness and strength level. If you are a beginner and engage in explosive exercises like ballistic training, your rate of injury far outweighs the benefits you will incur from this type of training.

Power training for basketball players means training with a medicine ball and performing such exercises like ballistic jump squats, which have shown to increase vertical leap by 18%.4

Basketball Ballistic Training

You’re going to be working at 30% 1RM, so choose the right medicine ball (5 – 13 lb) to achieve this load requirement. Choose 2 to 3 exercises from the list below and these will form your ballistic training circuit. You will perform 10 to 20 repetitions of each for 1 to 3 sets, resting for 2 to 3 minutes in between each. These should be incorporated into your training program 2 to 3 times per week. To truly reap the benefits from this type of exercise, make sure your movements are explosive and powerful.

Plyometric Push-Ups
I think we’re all familiar with this one. Perform a regular push-up, only catch some air on the way up, making sure you’re in the proper position for your landing.

Slam Dunks
Start by holding the ball behind your head and your feet hip-width apart, then slam the ball down as hard as you can, catching it off the bounce to repeat so you can keep the momentum going.

Squat and Toss
Holding the ball into your chest, squat down then push yourself off the ground, tossing the ball above your head as fast and hard as you can. Your feet should leave the ground on this one.

Propulsions
In the starter’s position, holding the ball on the ground, propel yourself forward bringing the ball up to your chest to toss and chase after it without stopping. Switch up your starting leg to work both sides.

Overhead Back Toss
Start by holding the ball above your head and your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, bringing the ball down between your legs, lower down into a squat, then propel yourself up to toss the ball over your head behind you as hard as you can. This exercise works best with a partner.

Overhead Slam Toss
Facing a wall with knees braced and one foot slightly forward, raise the medicine ball above your head and then slam it down against the wall, catching it off the bounce to repeat so you can keep the momentum going.

One Arm Overhead Toss
In a squatting position with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, pick the ball up off the ground with one arm and toss up above your head as fast as you can.

Lateral Toss
With your side to the wall, bring the foot closest to the wall slightly in front of the other. Throw the ball from your opposite hip for an underhand toss against the wall, catching it off the bounce to repeat so you can keep the momentum going.

Sources:

1) Knuttgen HG and Kraemer WJ: Terminology and Measurement in Exercise Performance.
J Appl Sport Sci Res. 1987, 1:1-10

2) Newton RU, Murphy AJ, Humphries BJ, Wilson GJ, Kraemer WJ, Hakkinen K: Influence of Load and Stretch Shortening Cycle on the Kinematics, Kinetics and Muscle Activation that Occurs During Explosive Upper-Body Movements.
Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1997, 75 (4):333-42

3) Garhammer J: A Review of Power Output Studies of Olympic and Powerlifting: Methodology, Performance Prediction and Evaluation Tests.
J Strength Cond Res. 1993, 7 (2):76-89

4) Wilson GJ, Newton RU, Murphy AJ, Humphries BJ: The Optimal Training Load for the Development of Dynamic Athletic Performance.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1993, Nov; 25 (11):1279-86

Originally published @ FITLODE.COM

Plyometrics for Leg Definition and Increased Endurance

Sometimes you need to take a break from the same-old routine of lifting weights to stimulate your muscles and avoid plateau-ing.

Man and woman jumpingAdding some plyometric exercises to the mix about twice a week will shake things up and give your legs a killer workout with massive pumps, while increasing your strength, definition and cardiovascular endurance.

Plyometric Leg Circuit

10 Pop Squats – placing your hands behind your head and toes turned out slightly, assume the squat position, then jump up as high as you can, gently landing back into a squat position, and the immediately pop up again. Do not pause between reps.

20 Switch Splits – these are lunges with a jump. In the lunge position, place your hands behind your head and propel yourself up to switch legs, bringing the back knee almost to the ground. Repeat by switching legs. It’s important to make the switch between legs as fluid as possible and to keep your landing soft and controlled.

20 Speed Squats – placing your hands behind your head, squat down until the upper thighs are parallel to the floor, then propel yourself up to start again.

20 Alternating Lunges – with feet together, place your hands behind your head and take a full step out in front of you and bend the knee, while the back knees brushes the ground. Perform 10 on each leg.

Perform this circuit three times with a 60-second break in between sets and a 3-minute break between circuits. You won’t want to do this routine anymore than twice a week.

Originally published @ FITLODE.COM

Speed Skating Plyometrics for Power and Speed

Speed skaters and inline skaters have more than one thing in common, but the most troubling is probably the weather.

Olympic speed skaterWhile speed skaters have the luxury of indoor ice rinks throughout the year on which to train, inline skaters have to adapt their training in the wintertime, unless they’re lucky enough to live in a sunny clime.

Despite these challenges, skaters in general need to spend at least one day a week working on building strength and muscle for speed and power. You will also want to focus on bringing your non-lead leg up to speed [no pun intended] to avoid overtraining and injury.

All you need for this set of killer plyometric exercises are steps and stairs.

Let’s get started:

Power Jumps

You will need a box or something you can jump over that stands anywhere from 8 to 32 inches, depending on your fitness level. Standing tall, with feet together on one side of the object, leap over the box and then back to the other side as soon as you land. Do not rest or bounce between jumps.

Repeat for 3 sets of 12 to 20 jumps.

The Groucho Marx Walk

Assuming the skating position, walk forward in a very low position, so that your back knee almost touches the ground – something like a walking lunge.

Repeat this exercise for 1 to 2 minutes.

Zig-Zags

With feet together, stand at the bottom of the stairs and assume the skating position. Jump up as many steps as you can, first to the right, then to the left, so you’re zig-zagging your way up. Do not rest in between landing and zig-zagging to the other side. The movement should be fluid and constant. You can just as easily perform this exercise outside at the bottom of a hill. With each set, challenge yourself to jump farther.

Repeat for 3 sets of 10 jumps.

Alternating Hops

Standing sideways to a step, place your left foot on the step and the right foot on the ground. You can also use a flight of stairs. Hop up, so all your weight is on your left foot, hop again and repeat for 40 reps. Turn around, so you’re facing in the opposite direction to work the other leg. Again, use a 2:1 ratio to do twice as many reps on your non-lead leg.

Repeat for 3 sets on each side for 40 to 100 reps.

Descente

Starting at the top of the stairs, stand sideways to the stairs, lower yourself down into the skating position and jump down to the next step, bounce, then jump down to the next step. Go back to the beginning and switch sides, so you’re facing in the opposite direction that you started in and you’re working the opposite leg. The trick here is to keep the movement tight – it’s more of a drop than it is a jump. Work with a 2:1 ratio, doing twice as many reps on your non-lead leg.

Repeat for 4 sets of 20-30 steps.

Make sure you stretch well before and after these exercises and take whatever precautions you need to protect your joints.

Originally published @ FITLODE.COM

Plyometric Training for Speed Skaters

Plyometrics to improve skating techniques, strength, stamina and endurance.

Speed skatingSpeed skaters spend most of their training time on the ice, skating around a 400-meter ice track for about two hours at a time.

Sprint skaters concentrate on building speed through short-burst training sessions, while distance skaters focus on balance, cornering and positioning, practicing in teams and skating close to each other to develop agility and drafting techniques.

As we all know, no training program is complete without strength training and logging some hours in the gym. Short track speed skaters spend about one day a week in the gym and focus on building lower body strength, paying particular attention to their “other leg” to avoid injury and overtraining their lead leg. Strong arms, core and back strength are also crucial in relay races and that critical time when they push the next skater on the team.

Here are some killer leg exercises that skaters can do off-ice to improve strength, stamina and endurance:

Tuck Jumps

Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, jump up, bringing your knees to your chest. As soon as your feet touch the ground, jump up again. Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps.

Lunge Jumps

Starting in a lunge position with your front leg at a 90° angle, push yourself off the back leg and jump up as high as you can, landing on the opposite leg (your back leg). Balance on the landing leg for a couple of seconds, then switch legs with a little jump to bring you back to your starting position. You’ll need some finesse for this one, so that you’re not landing too hard on that one leg. Repeat for 3 sets of 16 reps (8 times per leg).

Johnny Jump-ups!

Not for people who have knee, back or ankle problems. Stand on a box, bench or step and make sure it is on a solid, non-slippery surface. Standing shoulder-width apart, hands at your side, step off the box and as soon as you hit the ground, spring up into a tuck jump. Make sure you’re springing straight up and not lurching forward. Rest for a few seconds, then repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps.

Scissor Jumps

Bending the right knee at a 90° angle, rest the left knee lightly on the ground behind you and lean forward in the skating position. Jump up and switch legs mid-air in a scissor-like fashion, landing with your left knee forward and your right knee on the ground. As soon as your knee touches the ground, spring up again and repeat without stopping until you complete the set. Start with 20 reps per leg and work your way up to 50 per leg. Repeat for 3 sets.

Crossovers

Keeping your head up and hips level, look straight ahead not at the ground and assume the skating position. Maintaining correct posture and without twisting your torso, place the left leg behind the right leg, as if you were about to do a crossover. Then jump from the right leg to the left leg, landing in a reverse crossover. Try practicing in front of the mirror to help with correct posture. At the beginning of the season, practice this maneuver for 2 minutes and rest for 2 minutes. Repeat for 4 – 5 sets.

This kind of intense training is meant for people who have been training for at least two years. Make sure you don’t do this workout every day and remember to warm up for 5 – 10 minutes before and stretch for 5 – 10 minutes after training to avoid injury.

Originally published @ FITLODE.COM